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COVID-19 Running Tips

running with Covid-19 mask

If you’re a runner that has been sheltering-in-place or self-quarantining for the past several weeks, you have probably wondered if or when you can start back running outside in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic.

So here are our COVID-19 Running Tips:

COVID-19 Running Tip #1

Know your local county and state COVID-19 Guidelines

Depending on where you live, there may be restrictions on outdoor running during COVID-19 or restrictions or limitations on where you can run. 

trail runners

Currently here in California, most local, county and state parks are closed which means if you like running trails, you could be breaking the law and potentially facing stiff fines as well.

COVID-19 Running Tip #2. Don’t run if you’re sick

Usually this is a common sense tip, but realize that while overall exercise good for the immune system, there is a temporary decrease in your immune system after a hard workout which can last up to 24 hours depending on how long and intense the exercise was and the current health of the runner. 

This brief decrease in your immune system is more important in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic because it might increase your risk of being infected with the virus if you come in contact with it during this time of lower immune system function.

COVID-19 Running Tip #3 Run solo or Run practicing social distancing

If you have a well-know running route that you feel safe on, then running alone would be the best solution to limit risk of COVID-19 exposure. 

You can run with a spouse or other people that you live with since there’s minimal additional increased risk of spreading COVID-19 between this close contact group.

If you are running with others, try to maintain 6 foot distance when safe to do so. Also realize that you should maintain that 6 foot distance with others that you might pass by on your run.

Obviously, those big Saturday morning marathon training group runs should be avoided in order to practice proper social distancing.

There was a recent Belgium study that made the social media rounds last month. This study suggested that potential respiratory droplet and aersolization spread during exercise was possibly much further than 6 feet. While the study was a mathematical model of wind tunnel data and not a “real-world” study, it did raise an interesting concern of how far runners should distance themselves while running.

COVID-19 Running Tip #4. Running with a mask

runner with COVID-19 mask

I’ve been asked this question by more than a few runners and I don’t think there’s a great scientific or medical answer at this time. 

Obviously, runners breathe deeper and exhale more forcefully while running than at rest or while walking. Currently, the medical community thinks that Corona virus is spread thru respiratory droplets (and possibly aerosolization in some cases), it would make sense that the increased work and force of breathing during running could spread these droplets further than the current 6 feet theory.

Social distancing (COVID-19 Running Tip #3) would be one way to help prevent and protect other, but wearing a mask may also help limit the spread of respiratory droplets (and possibly Corona virus) while running. 

The most comfortable (and available) running masks would be a cloth mask.

However, its important to know that cloth masks do  a poor job of filtering Corona virus, probably 5% at best. Compare that low viral filtering level of a cloth mask to the N95 masks that healthcare workers wear, which filter 95% of bacterial and viruses if fit properly.

Cloth masks may prevent some of the respiratory droplets from traveling too far, but I wouldn’t consider a cloth mask an effective way of preventing COVID-19 transmission.

If you’ve never worn an N95 mask, it does limit your breathing capacity and while I’ve worn plenty of N95 masks in clinic, I couldn’t imagine trying to run while wearing that type of mask.

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